UK start-up backed by Robbie Williams and Sheryl Crow launches music streaming and karaoke on Sky Q

Business

A music streaming service backed by Robbie Williams, Sheryl Crow and Alesha Dixon launches today with Sky’s Q box which will allow music fans to sing karaoke with their favourite artists, play music quizzes or tune into more than 10,000 radio stations.

ROXi, backed by record company giants Sony, Universal and Warner, is the brainchild of entrepreneur and CEO Rob Lewis, who claims its services will be available in 500 million TVs worldwide by the end of 2022.

As well as streaming as many songs as Spotify, ROXi uses the TV set to offer more experiences on top, or, in Lewis’s words, “shared entertainment experiences that bring friends and family together for great fun times, delivered on the biggest screen in the home — the television”.

That will include original music videos and other visual images to accompany tracks which can be provided by ROXi or uploaded by viewers.

Alongside music industry shareholders, backers include McLaren founder Ron Dennis, entrepreneur Nigel Wray and ex-TomTom techie Mark Gretton. Music companies Universal, Sony and Warner are also shareholders.

The service is available for £6.99 a month.

Lewis, who set up the first commercial music streaming service, MusicStation, with Vodafone in the noughties, said: “This makes sure Sky subscribers can have everything – movies, sport, Netflix and now music, karaoke and interactive games.”

Sky Q subscribers can already get Spotify through the platform but ROXi is a totally different product, he said. “It’s all about getting your friends and family a shared experience, rather than individually watching their phones or tablets. For a party, karaoke, music trivia, yoga or meditation, the big screen is just better. We’re not trying to compete with Spotify, we’re trying to be the ultimate way to for families to enjoy music together on the big screen.”

It is thought ROXi has an exclusive agreement with Sky but Lewis is keen to strike more deals with platforms overseas.

Analysts said it has been increasingly important for Comcast-owned Sky, like Virgin and BT, to prove it can offer more to subscribers than the online channels now available through devices such as the simple Amazon Fire Stick.

The broadcaster has gone further than some payTV rivals to bite the bullet on offering rival content makers such as Netflix and YouTube through its platform.

Lewis said the digital TV technology that allows ROXi to work had been far slower to revolutionise the way consumers watch television than Internet’s arrival to mobile phones. “The iPhone turned up and the whole new ecosystem for apps built up in no time at all around two major players [iOS and Android] but the television market remains very fragmented, probably because you replace your mobile every 12 or 18 months so you get the latest technology whereas you only change TV every seven or eight years when you move house or get divorced.”

The arrival of Netflix, he said, has changed all that, driving ever growing numbers of viewers to online TV services including SkyQ.

Lewis got Robbie Williams interested after talking to his manager. “Robbie and his wife are cool and supportive of all things British.”

He said Sheryl Crow came to ROXi after an introduction from a US public relations executive. “We went down to Nashville and visited her at her ranch – a very cool place. We gave her a demo and she loved it. She’s really into family and is against the idea of children spending all their time on screens on their own. She came on board straight away.”

She agreed to help publicise the business in return for shares.

Ron Dennis also invested after Lewis gave him a demonstration and is now one of the biggest shareholders.

“It’s good because we don’t have one large venture capital investor, it’s several wealthy, successful entrepreneurs backing another wealthy entrepreneur.”

He said he would eventually like to float the company on the London Stock Exchange. “I’d rather take the company up to a £500 million valuation than let it get bought by a big US tech company and the best way to do that is often through an IPO,” he said. “It’s really sad when a national champion gets swallowed up so I’ll be doing my level best to make sure that doesn’t happen.”